Polls show that 2 in 3 Americans, and a majority of nearly all demographic subgroups, support voter ID laws. Republicans have already argued in fundraising appeals that Democrats and their proxies going to all lengths to undermine a bedrock American principle – that every vote should count equally – and now may add that courts appear to be taking their side.
“That’s where you have Republicans seeing this as an issue they can push, that having a photo ID handy is not a big deal for Mr. Middle Class Voter, and, secondly, the powerful appeal [of the idea that] … your vote should not be diluted by the votes of ineligible voters,” says Charles Franklin, a polling expert at the University of Wisconsin, in Madison.
But most of the emotional energy in the national debate over voter ID laws has so far been concentrated on the Democratic side, pollsters say. Many Democratic activists are convinced that the spread of voter ID laws into 17 states is less an effort to sanctify the vote and more an effort to help Republicans win at the polls by by shutting out liberal voters.
Republicans have given that narrative plenty of fodder, as in the case of the Pennsylvania Republican who said at a GOP dinner in June that the state's voter ID law “is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.”
What’s more, opponents of voter ID laws have had the more powerful appeal, some political scientists say. They have identified actual voters, some of them elderly, who faced potentially insurmountable difficulties in voting this year, despite assurances from Pennsylvania officials that all eligible voters would be able to cast a ballot.
“Studies that point to the potential for voter fraud just don’t have the same appeal as personal narratives of the 90-year-old woman who marched with Martin Luther King who might lose her right to vote,” says Mr. Borick at the Institute of Public Opinion.